UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged all governments to do everything in their power to support a free, independent and diverse media.
"Free and independent journalism is our greatest ally in combatting misinformation and disinformation," he said in a message marking the World Press Freedom Day that falls on May 3.
Guterres said the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists aims to create a safe environment for media workers across the globe – because information is a public good.
He said the global challenges they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic underline the critical role of reliable, verified and universally accessible information in saving lives and building strong, resilient societies.
During the pandemic, and in other crises including the climate emergency, journalists and media workers help all navigate a fast-changing and often overwhelming landscape of information, while addressing dangerous inaccuracies and falsehoods, said the UN chief.
In too many countries, they run great personal risks, including new restrictions, censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even death, simply for doing their jobs, said adding that the situation continues to worsen.
The economic impact of the pandemic has hit many media outlets hard, threatening their very survival, Guterres said.
As budgets tighten, so too does access to reliable information. Rumours, falsehoods and extreme or divisive opinions surge in to fill the gap, he said.